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What's the Impact of an Incorrect Alzheimer's Diagnosis?

A diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease can be devastating to the person diagnosed and to the entire family. However, the wrong diagnosis or failure to diagnose any form of dementia can be even worse. It can delay treatment that could help slow the progression of the disease or ease the symptoms.

One particular type of dementia that most people probably haven't heard of is frontotemporal dementia. It's considerably rarer than Alzheimer's. Therefore, those people who have it are often mistakenly diagnosed with Alzheimer's and treated for the wrong disease.

One doctor, who is the director of Houston's Nantz National Alzheimer Center, says that the two diseases have different symptoms. They also impact the brain differently. Frontotemporal dementia generally presents when people are between their 50s and 70s, while Alzheimer's usually impacts those somewhat older, from their 60s to their 90s.

People with these diseases exhibit different symptoms. Alzheimer's patients usually suffer from memory loss. Those with frontotemporal dementia, on the other hand, tend to become less organized, have difficulty finding words and may act or speak inappropriately. Differences between the two diseases can also be detected in the brain with state-of-the-art imaging.

The two diseases are treated differently, so it's essential that they are diagnosed correctly as soon as possible. While there's not yet a good treatment for frontotemporal dementia, the Alzheimer's expert says that there are clinical trials being done. Those misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's don't get to participate in those trials. Further, if they participate in Alzheimer's trials, they "can skew that data and prevent the advancement of those treatments."

There are numerous types of dementia. That's why it's essential that if you or a loved one experience symptoms that you believe may be dementia-related, you seek treatment from an expert in the field who can distinguish among the various types. Getting the proper treatment in a timely manner can improve the quality, and possibly the length, of your life. If you or a family member was misdiagnosed, you may be able to seek legal recourse. A Miami medical malpractice attorney can advise you of your options.

Source: Newswise, "Dementia Treatment Delayed Due to Misdiagnosis," Feb. 24, 2016

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